Amid all the ballyhoo over what a bold visionary Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the work of Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control, who has died at age 96.
Think about it. Before Polley’s brainstorm, people actually had to get up out of their seats and cross the room to change TV channels.
Simply put, there would be no couch potatoes without this man.
I don’t mean to be snarky. The TV remote truly is one of those rare devices that change the way we live. I’d put it right up there with personal computers and microwave ovens.
Polley earned 18 U.S. patents for his inventions, which include the “Flash-matic” remote control. Introduced in 1955, the gadget “used a flashlight-like device to activate photo cells on the television set to change channels,” according to one-time TV powerhouse Zenith.
The Flash-Matic was followed by the Space Command, which was developed by the late Robert Adler, a fellow Zenith engineer who built upon Polley’s invention. These early iterations have since given way to more advanced infrared and radio-frequency remotes.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Polley also worked on the push-button radio for cars and on development of the video disk, predecessor of today’s DVD.
He received an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1997 for “pioneering development of wireless remote controls for consumer television.”
Gush all you want about Facebook, Twitter and other recent tech innovations. I’d stack Polley and his TV remote against all of them.
After all, which would you be more willing to give up -- Facebook or your remote?